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Obama to unveil national security team

President-elect Obama will announce at a press conference on December 1 his choices for Secretary of State and other top diplomatic and security jobs. Hillary Clinton is top choice for State and may get Republican support.

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From the beginning of his presidential run, Barack Obama maintained that the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq was a mistake. So it might come as a surprise that he is expected to name Senator Hillary Clinton as his choice for Secretary of State. Clinton voted to authorize the invasion, and repeatedly defended that vote while competing against Mr. Obama in the sometimes bitter fight for the Democratic presidential nomination.

If she is nominated, Senator Richard Lugar, the top Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, says he plans to vote to confirm her, despite questions about the activities of former President Bill Clinton, who remains active on the world stage as a speaker and fundraiser for humanitarian projects.

Lugar spoke on ABC's This Week program.

"The wide-ranging activities of President Clinton are very substantial on this earth," said Senator Lugar. "They will continue to be. I do not know how, given all of our ethics standards now, anyone quite measures up to this, but I think the Obama campaign people have done a good job in trying to pin down the most important elements [of President Clinton's future activities]."

News reports say, to avoid possible conflicts of interest between former President Clinton's activities and Mrs. Clinton's duties as Secretary of State, the former president has agreed to reveal the names of donors to the organizations he heads, and to allow the Obama administration to have input on the content of his speeches. The arrangement is unprecedented between a former president and an incoming administration.

Mr. Obama is also expected to name retired Marine General James Jones to serve as his National Security Advisor, and to announce he will retain current Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who has served in the Bush administration for the past two years.

Gates oversaw last year's troop surge in Iraq, which Mr. Obama opposed. Like President Bush, Gates has warned against a hasty withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, although the just-completed U.S.-Iraqi Status of Forces Agreement does set a 2011 deadline for removing American combat forces.

Also appearing on This Week, Democratic Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island said he has no misgivings about retaining a key member of the Bush administration in the Obama cabinet.

"I think it is sending a message that, in this time of significant challenge internationally, the continuity that Bob Gates brings to the Pentagon and his good judgment, his good sense, his demonstrated performance is absolutely critical for this moment," said Senator Reed.

Nevertheless, it cannot be denied that the president-elect is tapping people for top positions with whom he has had significant policy disagreements and - in the case of Senator Clinton - a former foe that waged a heated primary challenge to Mr. Obama.

During the primaries, Mrs. Clinton repeatedly questioned Mr. Obama's qualifications to be commander-in-chief, suggesting his resume pales in comparison to that of then-Republican presidential hopeful John McCain.

"I know Senator McCain has a lifetime of experience that he will bring to the White House," said Senator Clinton. "And Senator Obama has a speech [opposition the Iraq war] he gave in 2002."

But Missouri Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill says the president-elect is now demonstrating his willingness to listen to differing points of view and, in doing so, will change the way Washington operates. McCaskill spoke on Fox News Sunday.

"What these picks say about Barack Obama is that the kind of change he is embracing is that you do not just pick the people who were on your side during a campaign, you pick the best you can find," said Senator McCaskill. "That is an important change for Washington."

But Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina says the president-elect's choices will prove wise only if Mr. Obama is open to their advice.

"I want to applaud President-elect Obama for these picks, but it is one thing to pick them," said Senator Graham. "It is another thing to listen to them. I think he is going to do both - at least I hope he will."

Graham was also speaking on Fox News Sunday.

Reported by Michael Bowman.

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